Godwin’s law says that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1,” meaning that sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism. Some have extended this observation to suggest that whoever uses a Nazi analogy in a debate first — loses, regardless of the position of the other side.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barnie Sanders (I-Vt) has to have been mindful of Godwin’s law when he told ABC’s This Week on Sunday: “I did not compare Trump to Hitler, but I will do everything that I can to stop this type of hatred and hate talk that we are hearing.”
Bernie did come close to using the H word for political profit on Saturday, when he told supporters in Milwaukee, Wis. his relatives died in the Holocaust because of “a lunatic … stirring up racial hatred.”
“Some of you know I’m Jewish,” Sanders said. “My father came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland. He came over, other people in his family did not come over. Those people died. Children died. … So that it is in my heart, to see what a lunatic can do by stirring up racial hatred.”
Godwin’s law has been in overdrive throughout the Obama administration. Last summer, former governor Mike Huckabee said, in a Sunday radio interview on the nuclear deal with Iran: “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naïve that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
But while Obama’s Hitler comparisons have stressed the president’s supposed sinister designs for Jews, the Trump comparisons center on his crowd control methods.
Peter Ross Range (author of Murder In The Yoga Store and A Killer in the Family) wrote last week that “Hitler’s special skill in selling himself was his uncanny ability to intuit crowd mood. He understood that he had to reach past the nitty-gritty of desperate 1920s pocketbook issues to the German people’s sense of themselves. … Germans, not merely defeated but humiliated by the war’s aftermath, craved self-respect even more than bread, Hitler rightly sensed.”
“Sound familiar?” asks Range, noting that “while Donald Trump is no killer, he shares Hitler’s goal of national greatness. Like Hitler, Trump has a preternatural sense of crowd mood and the voters’ inner needs, not just their material distress. They want, even more than badly needed jobs and security, a sense of their own value in an unmoored world.”
Back in October, The Daily Show’s new host, South-Africa born Trevor Noah, suggested “Donald Trump is the perfect African president,” which is a funnier idea than the Hitler thing, and hits the mark (it’s funny ’cause it’s true):
“For me, as an African, there’s just something familiar about Trump that makes me feel at home,” Noah said. “That’s light xenophobia, with just a dash of diplomacy. … Donald Trump is presidential, he just happens to be running on the wrong continent. In fact, once you realize that Trump is basically the perfect African president, you start to notice the similarities everywhere,” at which point Noah compared Trump’s bragging to former Ugandan president Idi Amin‘s bragging.
“Trump is so African presidential he’s already at the level of Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, whose brutality and oppressive tactics have kept him in power for 35 years,” Noah said, concluding, “I understand that Trump is a little scary – a little exotic, a little out of America’s comfort zone for some. But this great country’s capable of bold leaps. It took one in 2008 when it elected its first black president. Now in 2016 I say it’s time to be bold once more and elect America’s first African president.”